Fae's Defiance (Queens of the Fae #2) - M. Lynn
Alona Cahill trudged along the river’s edge, eager to leave her prison cell behind for a brief taste of fresh air. The chains around her ankles chaffed, but they were better than the bars of her cage. After surviving the last weeks in the dungeons of Queen Regan’s palace, she looked forward to this part of her routine.
Every week, the prisoners were escorted from the dungeon to get some fresh air and exercise in the fields beside the river. It was the only time she was able to wash the filth and grime from her body. And the only time she had to speak privately with Neeve, her fellow prisoner and co-conspirator.
“How is it coming with the chains?” Alona asked her friend.
“It’s slow work. My magic is nearly useless, but every day the links grow weaker. I’ll be able to start working on yours soon.” They had little hope of escape, but that didn’t mean either woman was ready to give up trying.
Alona was born without magic and therefore no help in terms of the power, but she had other skills. Since she was thrown into her cell, she’d worked tirelessly developing relationships with each of the guards. She knew which ones were susceptible to her charms and which ones weren’t worth the effort. She knew their shifts, when they ate, when they slept, and when they weren’t paying attention.
A few were a lost cause while others had a soft spot for the helpless little princess. They sometimes brought her extra food or water, which she shared with Neeve in the cell beside hers. In time, she hoped she could count on one of them looking the other way when she and Neeve made their escape.
The girls sat soaking their feet in the river, talking softly of their plans, using the rush of the water to conceal their voices.
“You’re too obvious.” A fair-haired man in chains sat down beside them, eying Neeve curiously. “You may as well shout your plans across the field.” He eased his blistered feet into the water, breathing a sigh of relief.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Alona said sweetly.
“If you’ve found yourselves imprisoned in the lowest, darkest corners of the dungeons, it means one thing. You’ve angered the queen, and she will not soon forget it.”
Neeve looked away, and Alona couldn’t help feel sorry for her—well, she felt sorry for all of them. Everyone in the dungeons had heard of the girl executed for helping someone escape the palace. Moira, her name was. Neeve had barely been able to speak of her except to whisper her name in her sleep. Alona didn’t know how, but they’d known each other.
She shifted her attention to the man before them. His eyes spoke of immense grief, but his calm façade hid it well. “You’ve been here a long time, haven’t you?”
“Longer than you’ve been alive, Princess.”
“You know who I am?”
“I know exactly who you are, Alona Cahill, daughter of the Eldur queens.”
“If you know my mothers, then you must know I won’t give up until I find a way out of this prison.”
“If there was a way out, I would have found it long ago.”
“Who are you, sir?” Neeve asked. Even as a prisoner she couldn’t seem to drop the formality a life in service had instilled in her.
“Brandon O’Rourke.” He held his hand out to her.
“You’re the queen’s brother?” Neeve’s eyes widened with shock as she took his offered hand. “The rightful king of Fargelsi?”
“Please, call me Brandon.” He held onto Neeve’s hand longer than most handshakes lasted before releasing it quickly.
“You’re supposed to be dead,” Alona whispered.